Michael Jackson returned to the airwaves Monday with a new song _ the first from an upcoming musical documentary featuring the troubled superstar.
It is the first new material by Jackson to be released since his sudden death in Los Angeles on June 25.
Jackson sounded confident and almost playful on "This Is It," which features his trademark breathy vocal style, perfected over the years since he was a child sensation with the Jackson Five. He is backed by lush vocals from his brothers, giving the recording a nostalgic, familiar feel.
The mid-tempo song with orchestral backing is played during the closing sequences of the documentary of the same name, which opens worldwide Oct. 28 for a limited two-week run. It features rehearsal footage shot shortly before Jackson's death.
"This Is It," goes one verse on the new song. "Here I stand. The light of the world. I feel grand."
The song is available on Jackson's official Web site and was being sent to radio stations. It will also be part of the two-disc CD set that will accompany the movie in a worldwide marketing blitz expected to capitalize on the surge of emotion that followed the singer's death.
The posthumous release of "This Is It" and the forthcoming album follows a long-standing pattern in the popular music world dating back to Elvis Presley's early death in 1977.
Presley's records have continued selling since that date, with new greatest hit compilations and live concert releases finding huge new audiences. His estate still receives tens of millions of dollars each year from CD sales and other enterprises, and in 2002 he even topped the UK charts with a remixed version of an older song.
The same was true, to a lesser extent, after the deaths of rock icons like Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin. A number of John Lennon solo albums were also released in the years following his shooting death in 1980.
Some artists have scored major hits after their deaths. For example, "Time in a Bottle" was the No. 1 hit in early 1974, months after Jim Croce died. Otis Redding's biggest hit, "The Dock of the Bay," was released after his death in a plane crash in December 1967. "Me and Bobby McGee" made the charts in 1971, a year after Janis Joplin died.
Jackson, one of the most commercially successful artists of all time, is expected to sell millions of albums in the coming years. His death already brought some of his classic records back to the top of the charts.
The new Jackson documentary shows the singer rehearsing for his planned 2009 London concerts, which were to mark his return to the stage after a lengthy absence caused in part by legal and personal problems. At the time, Jackson was deeply in debt and his popularity was dimmed by repeated charges of child molestation.
Jackson's death at age 50 is still being investigated.
The Los Angeles County coroner has ruled Jackson's death was caused by acute intoxication by the anesthetic propofol, with other sedatives a contributing factor. The coroner found the powerful anesthetic was administered without any medical need and that recommended resuscitation equipment was missing.
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